Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Don't you think that our happiness is a result of our spirituality?"

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend with whom I had not spoken in months. We’re in different places doing different things but I texted her about a band and our discussion eventually turned to life and happiness. I asked her if she was happy, a question that wasn’t necessarily fishing for a deep answer yet I was willing to listen to whatever answer I received. She began to talk about her spiritual life and about how although she’s going to church and doing the right things, she feels as though she’s in a rut as far as spiritual matters are concerned. She asked, “don’t you think our happiness is a result of our spirituality? The happiest moments of my life were when I was spiritually strong.” Absolutely! With that statement, she nailed the problem right on the head. When you’re unhappy—and I’m talking about the prolonged, not-situational-and-temporary sort of unhappy—take a step back and look at the actions in your life. Once you sift through all of the good things that you are doing, you may notice the lack of better or best things in your life. Often, good things crowd our schedules and our lives and we don’t realize that better things and best things exist that would make us happier. For instance, going to church is a good thing, but going to church and trying to find people to serve is better. Avoiding sin is good, but filling our lives with meaningful activities that bring us closer to God is better. Reading the scriptures is good, but truly studying the scriptures and seeking revelation through the Holy Ghost is better.

I confided in her that I felt somewhat the same way and shared with her some of the reasons why I thought I was not feeling at a spiritual high. We spoke about things that we could do and things we have done in order to stay on top and maintain a high level of spirituality, among these things were studying the scriptures and praying earnestly and sincerely.

Scripture Study and Prayer

Praying and studying the scriptures are not new suggestions, nor are they unique to her or my situation. Anyone and everyone can and should, indeed are commanded to read and study the scriptures and converse with God though thoughtful prayer (see Matt 6:6; 7:7-8; 3 Nephi 18:19-21; Alma 37:37 to start). I heard it once said that scriptures that are falling apart are being used by someone who isn’t. Indeed, if we are consistently studying the word of God through His chosen prophets and apostles, we are more receptive to the Holy Ghost and we are more spiritually prepared to face the trials and temptations of the adversary.

Prayer keeps us close to our Father in Heaven and helps us know that whatever may happen to us in this life, short-term or long-term, we have a loving Heavenly Father who will stand by us and has everything under control. The prophet, President Thomas S. Monson said that prayer is the provider of spiritual strength and the passport for peace.1

Understanding and Recognizing the Power of the Atonement

As the conversation progressed and we discussed these truths that we both knew to be true but of which we sometimes need to be reminded, deeper concerns began to surface. She referred to things in her past about which I already knew but did not know were still bothering her, things that required the Atonement to fix. These previous actions from her past made her feel unworthy to ask the Lord about unrelated concerns she was having in present time although she had fully repented and moved on long ago. She compared herself to one of our friends who is experiencing some of the present trials she is and who is also not necessarily receiving answers to his prayers either. She made the argument that if he, who hadn’t made the same mistakes she did, wasn’t getting answers, then why should she?

The Savior taught, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42; see also Hebrews 10:17). This promise should give us hope and encouragement that when we have truly repented of our sins and have allowed the Spirit to make “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2), we are clean and we can continue onward and upward. The Lord does not dwell on “repented-of sins” and neither should we.

Once you have truly repented, you are just as worthy as one who never committed the sin. In relation to the comparison my friend made to another, seemingly better friend I say this: we cannot compare ourselves to those who we think have not made mistakes as severe as ours and thus judge our worthiness against theirs. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught, ”Remember: the heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth.”2

President Harold B. Lee said, “When you have done all within your power to overcome your mistakes, and have determined in your heart that you will never repeat them again, then … peace of conscience [can come to you] by which you will know that your sins have been forgiven.”3 Do not forget the peace of conscience you received as you fully repented and turned your heart completely to God. Do not allow the master of deceit and the father of lies to convince you that you are still unworthy and therefore do not qualify for the blessings which your Heavenly Father wishes to bestow upon you.

Applying Truth

One aspect that may be frustrating to many of us is that these are truths we know and ones we understand yet we still find ourselves not acting on them. "A knowledge of truth is of little value unless we apply it in making correct decisions."4 None of the things that my friend and I discussed was new to her, she knows and understands the gospel of Jesus Christ, she just needed to hear it again and be reminded of that, which she already knew and realize that the entire gospel applies to her.

The key is always striving to do what is right and do what will bring us lasting happiness. President Uchtdorf said, “My dear brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don’t feel downcast or despair if you don’t feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times. The first step to walking in righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe. Try to learn of God: read the scriptures; study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the Father, and do the things He asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible—and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you.”5

There is the key to success and happiness in this life and the life to come. Do not allow the adversary, the one who “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27) throw you off course and distract you from your righteous goals and eternal potential. If you feel as though you are in a spiritual rut, take the time to evaluate your life and figure out what better and best things you could be doing that would pull you up and set you back on the right course. Pray more sincerely, study the scriptures more diligently, do those things that you know to be true and correct. If you feel that you are doing the things you should be doing, figure out how to do those things better, for none of us is perfect and we can always improve. Then, as you continually strive to increase in righteousness, do not become distracted and allow feelings of inadequacy, imperfection, guilt, discouragement, despair, and disappointment cloud your eternal perspective. Do not allow the devil to plant doubting thoughts in your mind. Remember that God is the author of love, peace, and happiness; Satan is the source of doubt, despair, inadequacy, and misery. Remember that God wants us to feel godly sorrow and remorse unto repentance. Satan wants us to continue to feel guilt and unworthiness after repentance. Always remember that you are a child of God and that He loves you. Taught John, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

I know that God lives and that He loves us. He hears and answers our prayers. I am grateful for the restored truth in our day through the prophet Joseph Smith, and the continued revelation and guidance through the Lord’s living prophet President Thomas S. Monson. The Atonement is real and is available to all of God’s children.

Jeremy

Notes:

1. See Thomas S. Monson, “Be Your Best Self,” Ensign, May 2009, 67–70; focus on the three suggestions in the middle of the talk.
2. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “A Matter of a Few Degrees,” Ensign, May 2008, 57–60.
3. See “Law of Chastity Vital, Girls Told,” Church News, Sept. 2, 1972, 7.
4. Richard G. Scott, “Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 90–92.
5. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 23.

Other Related articles:

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Point of Safe Return,” Ensign, May 2007, 99–101
Anthony D. Perkins, “The Great and Wonderful Love,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 76-78